A grassroots anti-war movement is gaining traction
There were only eight of them when the march started.
They carried no weapons, little money, and even fewer supplies. They relied entirely on the kindness of strangers for food and a place to sleep. Everywhere they stopped they shared their stories of tragedy and hardship, and hundreds of locals would gather to listen and share their own stories.
Because there is no place untouched by war in Afghanistan.
As they marched the hundreds of miles across the various war zones, alternating between Taliban controlled and government controlled regions, people began joining the peace march. By the time a NY Times reporter caught up to them their numbers had grown to 65. When BBC found the march they numbered 80.
In Wardak province, 50 kilometres (31 miles) south west of Kabul, an extraordinary procession is making its way down a dusty road in the countryside.
Around 80 men, young and old, wearing turbans and hats to protect them from the burning sun, are greeted with garlands and cheers by local people.
Carpets have been laid out on the ground to offer them a chance to rest and break their Ramadan fast.
None of them are wealthy or notable. They are regular working class people, and they've seen enough of war.
The peace movement in Afghanistan started with sit-ins in Helmand province in late March. It quickly went viral. Because of it's undeniable authenticity and popularity, neither the government nor the Taliban dares to attack it.
Most importantly, the peace movement is having a concrete effect on the war.
In scenes that would have seemed impossible a few days ago, members of the Afghan Taliban have been embracing Afghan security forces amid a three-day ceasefire called to mark Eid.
President Ashraf Ghani has extended the government's ceasefire and called on the Taliban to do the same.
The government has also released some Taliban militants from jail.
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) 16 June 2018
This simply wouldn't have happened if not for the Afghan peace movement.
But the best part is that the three-day ceasefire is building into something much bigger.
Ghani has offered peace talks "without preconditions" and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said something, something conditions of peace talks, blah, blah, blah, but anyone even care?
If Afghanistan will ever find peace again, it'll be because the people of Afghanistan want it and demand it. The U.S. shouldn't even be invited to the peace talks until the concerns of the Afghan people have been addressed.
Everything America has done in Afghanistan has been a complete failure. Whether it is our anti-narcotics program, or our stabilization program, or the 16-year long war itself.
It's long past time that Afghanistan, and the world, stopped waiting for America to lead, because we've proven that we are unable to lead. Hopefully, the Afghan people can show us the way.